Rogue estate agents still at large

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In April 2018, housing reforms were announced that would crack down on rogue estate agents and leave greater transparency. However, these reforms are yet to begin in earnest and there are calls for the government to ‘get on’ with improving standards, in particular with regard to rogue estate agents.

Rogue agents can often leave people, often the elderly, vulnerable and at risk of losing money.

A Buckinghamshire homeowner, Su Francis, describes being ‘left in limbo’ after an unpleasant experience with her estate agent. She was visited by a ‘quick sale’ estate agent who made her feel pressured into signing a contract within her own home. The contract was hastily presented and she was asked to sign, but the full details were only revealed days later when she received a phone call.

Ms Francis said: “I found out I was signed up to them for a year. No service whatsoever. There were no viewings, nobody came to see the house and when I phoned them it was just recorded messages.”

Julie Armstrong’s experience led to the sale price of her house being reduced without her consent. This actually had far reaching consequences on the sale of her property, as she had to change estate agents in order to raise the price. This led to potential buyers believing it was overpriced, when in fact it was just priced more fairly.

She said: “A year later we have put our house on the market again and every viewing has said it’s overpriced now because it was listed at £50,000 less last year. Our new agents advised us to drop the price this year by £30,000 to get anyone to even consider it.”

Lord Best’s 2019 Regulation of Property Agents report made a series of recommendations, including an independent regulator, proper licensing, defined qualifications and a code of practice. Anyone acting as a property agent without a licence should face criminal charges.

Lawyers and accountants have to be regulated, the same as schools, health and social care, etc, and the report argues that property should be no different. Lord Best said:

“At the moment anybody can set up shop and the next morning be operating as an agent. They can take quite a lot of money off you … and they aren’t regulated.”

He told ministers in no uncertain terms: “We need you to get your head around these recommendations and get on with it.”

The National Association for Estate Agents, the Association of Residential Letting Agents and the Property Ombudsman have all supported the recommendations.

The Ministry of Housing replied in a statement that “the government is committed to raising professionalism amongst property agents and welcomes the work of the independent Regulation of Property Agents working group, chaired by Lord Best. We will respond to the group’s final report following careful consideration.”

Have you come across a rogue letting agent or had problems with a valuation of your property? If you have, you can find out where you stand legally on the government website, or contact the Property Surveying valuation team for assistance.